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Ionarts in Santa Fe: Angela Meade

The Festival of Song series from Performance Santa Fe continued on Sunday afternoon. Although she is not featured on the Santa Fe Opera season this summer, soprano Angela Meade is in town, and her recital at the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Center was an affair not to be missed. Since Meade is not singing opera here this year, series director and accompanist Joe Illick allowed as how she could sing some opera arias along with the art songs.

Meade's is not a voice naturally suited to the more rarefied demands of art song. Two simple and slow songs by Bellini, Vaga luna and Ma rendi pur contento, were pretty but bordering on nondescript. In other cases, like Strauss's Zueignung, she just did not need the sort of vocal power applied to the music. These were only minor flaws in what was an intense, almost overwhelming recital that reinforced the preeminence of this extraordinarily gifted soprano. Meade brought subtlety to Liszt's song Oh! quand je dors, with a pearly control of her diminuendo and a longing turn of phrase in the memorable final phrase. At the keyboard Illick was right on the money in following Meade's twists and turns of rubato, and his left hand provided plenty of dynamic drive in larger songs like Liszt's Enfant, si j'étais roi.

In songs and especially opera arias where more squillo was needed, Meade excelled, the power of her voice and plenteous breath support like a thrilling electric surge. The restlessness of Strauss's Cäcilie, the soaring high parts of Korngold's Mariettas Lied, the soaring conclusion of Strauss's Zueignung -- all hit the right mark. When composers drew on the strengths of a voice like hers, it was the best of all, as in the intense crescendo and diminuendo at the opening of Pace, pace, mio Dio, from Verdi's La forza del destino, and especially the shrieked curses at the end of that piece ("Maledizione!"). Ebben?...Ne andrò lontana from Catalani's La Wally, music used to such memorable effect in Jean-Jacques Beineix's crazy 80s film Diva, made for an equally exciting conclusion. Most sopranos who sing Victor Herbert's Art Is Calling for Me (I Want to Be a Prima Donna) as an encore would get an Ionarts Eye-Roll Award, but Meade has earned it.

The next concert in the Festival of Song series will feature soprano Leah Crocetto (August 4, 4 pm), sadly after my departure from Santa Fe.

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